Reviews…James Bond Reviews: Thunderball

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“So…what sharp little eyes you’ve got.”
“Wait ’till you get to my teeth!.” 

The Bond: Sean Connery

The Villain: Emilio Largo

The Henchmen: Count Lippe, Angelo Palazzi, Quist, and Vargas.

The Bond Girls: Dominique “Domino” Derval, Fiona Volpe, Paula Caplan, Patricia Fearing, and Mile. La Porte.

The Plan: SPECTRE hijacks two war heads and will destroy a major US unless paid a ransom. (You’ll never guess how much!)

The Gadget/Car: Bell rocket belt (jet pack,) a camera that double as a Geiger counter, a rebreather, and a homing pill. (It’s silly.)

The Song: “Thunderball” by Tom Jones

In 1965, the thrilling Thunderball was released. Goldfinger was a tough act to follow and while this is a highly entertaining and an (even more) action-packed film, it doesn’t quite bump its predecessor. While it takes a little while to really get moving and it drags severely at points, we are treated to a fun ride with deadly plot involving warheads, sharks, and lots and lots of harpoon guns.

Beginning with the opening hook, we know that we’re in for a unique ride. Bond fights a henchman dressed in drag and follows this up by rocketing with his jet pack. Yup. It’s awesome. It’s cheesy. It’s Bond, James Bond. It remains one of the most memorable opening hooks and more importantly it makes me really sad that I cannot have a jet pack.

During Tom Jones’ iconic “Thunderball” theme, the title sequence commences. Silhouetted dancing girls would become a staple in most of the movies to follow and is something a lot of people associate with the character. Whenever I think of James Bond theme songs, this one is usually one of the first to come to mind. “Goldfinger” was great, but it was about the eponymous villain, not the hero. It’s far from my favorite but it’s a great one. It uses the Bond theme (a little too) liberally, it’s loud, and it sounds like James Bond.

So what shenanigans is SPECTRE up to now? Well, something big and bad. Their number two man and head of extortion operations,  the one-eyed Emilio Largo has been put in charge of a new scheme: hijack two warheads and detonate them in a major US city unless the ransom of $100,000,000 is paid…of course we know this joke from Austin Powers, but it was 1965 ya punk. So of course off James Bond goes to stop this from happening.

Emilio Largo is  our bad guy this time ’round. He’s nearly the epitome of a Bond villain and an easy target to parody. He’s definitely got that villain-look going. He’s well dressed, well spoken, and even has an eye-patch.He’s unique in that he participates in his own scheme by donning SCUBA gear and going down with his men…but won’t hesitate to punish those that fail him including feeding an inept henchman to his pet sharks.

One of the Bond girls, Domino, is a surprisingly polished character. She has a lot more personality and “use” than a lot of the Bond girls. Initially loyal to her uncle Largo, her relationship she has with another character (and his subsequent death) serves as a very important turning point for her and causes her to question her loyalty to her uncle.
Fiona Volpe, a SPECTRE agent is the other major Bond girl. She’s a great femme fatale and is one of the better “bad guys” in the film. Watching her character work her charm on other characters only to turn on them is enough to make anyone hate her.
Other than them, you have a personality-lacking physiotherapist who serves as nothing more than yet another “conquest” for 007. Typical, huh?

Thunderball is a beautiful film with some of the best underwater sequences I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is impressive and this is largely due to the underwater scenes. A great deal of this movie takes place underwater and it’s often rather unnerving. It’s really an impressive thing in my opinion to watch all these scenes just thinking of all the planning, choreographing,  countless takes, and just the real-life dangers involved. This is even more applicable considering scenes involving real sharks with as far as I can tell no barrier separating the actors from the giant fish. I read that one of the stuntmen who doubled as an unfortunate henchman who fails to kill 007 and is thrown into a pool of sharks, demanded a pay increase. Sean Connery himself was in danger too at point when one of the sharks made it past the barrier the production team attempted to set up. He barely made it out of the pool! Crazy! And this is coming from someone who has had encounters with +7ft sharks in a cage dive.

The one thing that cripples this movie is the pacing. While the sheer passion that clearly went into the underwater sequences is evident, I think that the film’s greatest achievement is also one of the film’s negative qualities. Many of the film’s scenes take place underwater as mentioned and most of them go on just a little bit too long. For example, at one point the bad guys extract the warheads from the aircraft that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Well, we see absolutely everything. We see the entire process that they take. From entering the water, to preparing to extract the warheads, to actually extracting them, to bringing them back up, and so on. It just seemed unnecessary to show that much detail.

The biggest and best example of this though is the climax: an expansive underwater battle between US Navy frogmen and Largo’s men. it truly is cool-looking and the choreography as already stated is fantastic, but the fight just goes on and on and on. I think it’s kind of funny when an action movie makes the audience get a little bored during an elaborate action sequence. (The only thing longer than this was the amount of time it took the stupid van to finally fall in Inception…and that was 3/4 of the whole movie.) Also, in a somewhat disappointing turn of events, the post-climax scene is a bit of a letdown and seems very rushed. They went from this really long and painstakingly choreographed battle to just something that was just kinda…here ya go. They could have easily shaved a good half hour off this movie and I really think it would have helped it.

All in all Thunderball is if nothing else highly entertaining and an impressive feat on many levels. The production value is outstanding and the underwater scenes are beautiful albeit too long. While not quite as good as some of the others it still secures a spot alongside the greats.

Justin Davis will return…to review: You Only Live Twice! 

2 thoughts on “Reviews…James Bond Reviews: Thunderball

  1. I love that poster. The image of Bond with the jet pack, all nonchalant with his toes pointing straight down (almost as if he’s standing on something :P) is great.

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